Sunday, April 1, 2012

The German Cooks Italian

As part of my new found quest for fun (AKA I-Just-Turned-35-And-Holy-Sh*t-I-Haven’t-Done-Half-The-Stuff-I-Want-To-Do), I signed myself and The Husband up for a cooking demo at the Aqua Grill in Sandwich.  On the last Wednesday of every month, Chef Gert Rausch transforms his dining room into a kitchen and invites 65 guests to sit tableside while he dazzles them with his 35 years of culinary wisdom and fabulous personality. You leave with a full belly and all the recipes to make at home.  His past demos have included, Cajun & Creole, Aphrodisiacs, South Eastern Asia Cuisine, Popular German Cuisine and How to Cook Native Sea Bass. 

This past Wednesday was Italian.  The menu was simple but intriguing:

Cicheti (appetizers)
Baked Artichokes Wrapped in Bacon
Deep Fried Mozzarella Mini Sandwiches
Arugula, Shave Parmesan & Bristol Mini Sandwichs

Pasta Corso (pasta course)
Linguini con le cozze
(Linguini with mussels)
Ravioli co aragosta e spinacia
(Lobster and spinach ravioli)
Rigatoni al Ragu di Game Gallina
(Rigatonis with Cornish game hen ragu)

Artichokes Wrapped in Bacon and Deep Fried Mozzarella
Mini Sandwiches. Amazing!
I scored an excellent seat upon arrival – right at the front, closest to the demo.  If I could, I would have sat on the demo table.  I’m that interested.  TH and I munched on the appetizers and watched while adorable Chef Gert flirted with the ladies.  Guests greeted each other like old friends.  It seemed like this was a monthly activity for most of the folks in the room.

Chef Gert with his assistant Daniel. Daniel was a hottie.
As an added bonus, Martignetti Companies had been invited to the party and was conducting a wine pairing with each course.  We were being used as guinea pigs and would be deciding on the newest wine to be added to the Aqua Grille’s already impressive wine list.  I did not mind offering up my palate for such a worthy cause!

The first course was a Linguini con le Cozze.  I was nervous.  I’d never tried mussels. 
Well, what can I say?  It was gorgeous!  The pasta was a perfect al denti.  The mussels were delicately cooked with a garlic anchovies, chilies, oregano and white wine.  This introduction couldn’t have been arranged better.  I did find myself wanting a bit more heat and garlic.  I don’t think it would have taken too much from the mussels and would have added a bit more zip to the dish.

The wine served with this dish was a Californian Pinot Grigio.  It was like drinking white grape juice.  Did not get my vote.

The second course was Rigatoni al Ragu di Game Gallina. This was a cold winter’s night; sitting on the couch, in front of a fire with your loved one while dressed in your pj’s tucked into a bowl.  I wanted snuggle up to TH while I dug into this dish.  It was comfort mixed with the complex and deep flavors of game hen and the nutty parmesan reggiano shaved on top.  I got the feeling most people get when they love a certain dish: I was sad when my bowl was empty.

The wine served was a William Hill Chardonnay.  It is a “restaurant only” wine.  It stood up nicely to the richness of the dish, but really didn’t have much of a finish.  I wanted more oak. (BTW…this was the overall winner of the vote)

The last dish was a Ravioli con aragosta e spinacia.   I’m not normally a huge fan of the lobster ravioli in cream sauce.  I find it too heavy and it never leaves room for dessert.  Chef Gerts ravioli was none of that.  The champagne cream sauce was light, the ravioli flavorful and the surprise garnish of warmed chopped tomatoes and parsley tied it up nicely.  There would definitely have been room for dessert.

The wine served was an Edna Valley Pinot Noir. Many in the crowd were shocked at the pairing of a red wine with a seafood dish.  But, it was explained (I already knew, thankyouverymuch), that the richness of the cream and lobster would play nicely with the spicy Pinot.  This had my vote. I lost.  But, I’m buying a bottle for myself instead.

The experience was excellent. Chef Gert put Emeril Lagasse to shame with his quick wit and sweet smile. The only downer was the group of women cackling behind us the entire time.  Poor Gert doesn’t have a bullhorn for a voice and these bitches kept taking about their marital problems and such.  Thankfully, I had a saucy gal and her mother sitting beside The Husband and me.  She didn’t think twice when she turned around and told them to shut the hell up!  I love ya, girl!  Wished I’d gotten you’re number.  We could have torn it up together.

The Aqua Grille on the canal in Sandwich.  Got there, see Gert, get some good grub and learn a thing or two. Ciao, Lovers!